Families count down the days until they can throw their luggage in the back of the car and head out on the open road to a vacation destination. While there will be tons to do once you arrive at your travel spot, the car ride there can feel long. A car packed with bored kids is no way to start off your family trip, but with these road trip games, the drive time will go by in a flash.
Road Trip Games to Play With Younger Kids
Keeping young children entertained during lengthy car rides can be a taxing job for parents. You don't want to stick them on electronics for the entire duration of the drive, but you also don't want them whining and complaining either. Pack some tried and true road trip games for the younger crowd and make the drive more entertaining for everyone.
Find That Vehicle
When traveling long distances on the road, so many vehicles can be spotted! Prior to embarking on your trip, print out some Find That Vehicle printables and pack a few pencils. Pass the printed sheets out and explain to kids that they may only circle a particular vehicle once they spot it. Be sure to go over the images if you are playing with very young kids.
Everyone in the car makes up one silly rule that must stay in place for the entire trip. Rules could be things like:
- When we go under a bridge, we cluck like a chicken.
- If we see a cow, we clap our hands.
- Bark like a dog when you see a lake.
The entire family will be laughing the whole way to your final vacation destination.
Rock, Paper, Scissors
Even at a young age, kids can learn to play the classic game, Rock, Paper, Scissors. This game can be played with two children, or you can play it tournament style with larger groups of traveling family members. Remember, rock beats scissors, paper beats rock, and scissors beats paper!
Who Am I?
Some games are so entertaining that children won't even realize you are working their little brains. Who Am I? is a game where someone thinks of an object. They then list as many clues as they can until the other travelers guess the object they had in mind. For young kids, start simple, with common foods like an apple or a cookie, or common animals like a cat or a horse. Children will stretch their thinking as they come up with adjectives to associate with the object they chose. This is an excellent way to enhance vocabulary skills!
Name the Category
Working on categories is another skill parents can take to the car. In this game, you start naming objects that can all be clumped into a single category. You could start naming fruits and see if kids yell out fruits. You can name different farm animals and see if they can extend past simply saying animals and figure out that the category is, in fact, farm animals. Name items like sand, ball, shovel, and floaties, and see if kids guess the category is beach.
In My Suitcase
In My Suitcase is a game of memory. The first person says, "I'm going on a vacation, and in my suitcase I have..." then they say an item they would bring. The next person repeats the entire line and item of the person who went before them, but then adds their own item to the list. The next person says the line, both things that were said before, as well as their object. The list continues to grow, and it becomes a challenge to remember all the items listed in the order they were said.
Kids love ABC's and young children can use their ability to identify letters in a game called Roadway ABCs. If you are traveling with several young family members, play the game as a group, working together to identify the alphabet letters on signs, trucks, and buildings. Can you find every single letter in the alphabet before the trip is complete?
How Many Do You See?
If your family is going to be in the car for awhile, play How Many Do You See? Every person gets an item to be on the hunt for. Choose things like grocery trucks, cows, RVs, and green cars. Everyone then sets their sights on the object they were given. Set a time for an hour, and at the end of the hour see how many of the listed objects were seen. This is a great game for little kids, as they only have to focus on finding a single thing. It also works for kids that quarrel, as no one is really competing against anyone else.
One person calls out a license plate, giving the kids in the car the initials used in the plate. You might want to write these initials down, as children quickly forget a string of unrelated letters. Now comes the silly part. Everyone makes up a saying using only the letters on the plate. Vote on the funniest one.
If You Could Be, and Why?
Take this time to listen to your family's thinking with a game called If You Could Be, and Why? Give the kids in your family a category, saying things like "If you could be an animal, what would you be and why? or "What do you want to be when you grow up and why?" Their answers as to what they would be and why that is might surprise you.
How Many Words Can You Rhyme?
Rhyming is an essential skill for young children to learn. Use your time together in the car to have some fun with rhyming. Announce a word that can easily rhyme with several other words. Each person takes a turn thinking of a rhyming word. Which word had the most rhymes and what was the number?
Grocery Store Challenge
This is another game that helps kids work on their memory and listening skills. In Grocery Store Challenge, the first person says an item found in most grocery stores. The following person names the previously listed item, as well as a new one. The third person has to remember what was said and the order they were said. You can also pair this with the alphabet version, having each item said start with a letter of the alphabet, beginning with A, and working to the end of the alphabet.
Road Trip Games Geared Towards Older Kids and Teens
Older kids and teens are happy to sit on their phones or electronic devices from the minute you leave your driveway until you reach your vacation spot. Pull them into some family fun and bonding with a couple of road trip games they won't hate.
The first family member says an unfortunate event like:
- Unfortunately, we ran into a pack of wild bears on our trip.
The next person follows that up with something funny, or smart and positive like:
- Fortunately, the bears had a cute little cottage and were making porridge for dinner.
Truth or Dare: Car Edition
You can play Truth or Dare in the car, you just need to be very cunning with your truths and dares so older kids and teens don't become bored. Consider dares like:
- Hug your brother.
- Sing part of a song from the radio.
- Make the weirdest noise you can think of.
- Impersonate a family member.
- Wear your socks on your hands until the next stop.
- Hop like a bunny into the next rest area.
If you are headed out for a long journey across the open road, play Restaurant Wars. In this game, every kid gets paper and a pencil. They have to write the names of all the eateries they see as they pass signs for food, or as they pass through towns with eateries. Who managed to spot the most restaurants? That is your winner, and their prize is they get to pick where you stop for dinner.
If you have a few old roadmaps in the car, you can play Map Masters. Give the kids a few things to locate on the map. These can be small towns, highways, mountains, county lines, and rivers. See if they can use their detective skills to locate all the landmarks you give them.
The Good Old License Plate Game
Little kids might not be ready to read all of those license plate names that whiz by them, but older kids can easily spot plates from varying states. Give everyone a pad of paper and a pencil and tell them to write down each state license plate they see. Who saw the most plates from different states?
Don't Say It
You can play this with older kids, adding more words to the "No Say" list, or play it with younger kids and only put a single word on the list. The object of the game is to not say a specific, identified word for the entire trip. If you do say the forbidden words, you earn a point for yourself. The person with the fewest points is the winner of the game.
Word Trail Challenge
The Word Trail Challenge tries everyone's ability to connect words. Older kids are pretty adept at knowing plenty of compound words, so they should be able to play this brain game with minimal issues. One person says a compound word aloud. The next person says a compound word that begins with the last word in the previously said compound word.
Example: seashore - shoreline - linesman - manhole
How many words can you create playing this game?
ABC Category Game
Choose a category such as foods, songs, and musical artists. Name a word related to the given category that begins with the letter A. The next person does the same, only their word must begin with the letter B. See if your family can complete the challenge, making it through the entire alphabet.
Would You Rather?
If you have a carful of teenagers, try getting them involved in a game of Would You Rather? The game is simple, you have the broad question: Would You Rather?, and the two options follow. People then have to pick one of the two options.
Road Trip Spelling Bee
Have one person (preferably the adult in the passenger seat) look up complex spelling words. Give one of the kids the word, the definition, use it in a sentence, and provide them time to think about how to spell the word. If they spell it correctly, they earn a point.
Name the Most
Give your teens and older kids a category like "cities that start with S" or "Disney movies.' Using a pad of paper and a pencil, see who can name the most!
It is never okay to distract drivers, so create some ground rules for playing this game. If you are comfortable with this, have your kids spend some time waving to other people on the road. If they get a wave back, they earn a point. See who ends up the Smile champion.
Games Based on Pop Culture
Movies, songs, current events? They make for great trivia games that will keep the entire family busy and bonded as you trek across the open roads.
Movie Letter Game
Older children and teenagers have likely watched plenty of movies by now. Decide on a letter of the alphabet. Everyone then takes turns naming movies that begin with the selected letter. Another way to play this is to assign everyone a different letter. Give them a note pad and pencil, and have them write down all of the movies that start with their letter.
Battle of the Bands
Two kids receive devices. They then need to each choose a song in a given category. Choose categories like heartbreak, teenage love, and overcoming an obstacle. The players facing off then have a few minutes to select a song and play it for the people in the car. Everyone listens and chooses the song that suits the category best, giving the person who picked the winning song a point.
Name That Tune
This game is a classic. Use your personal device to play current popular songs as well as hits from the past. Who ends up the musical genius in your car who knows all the tunes?
Who Am I?
Think of a famous person well known in pop culture. Everyone asks questions about the person, but questions may only result in a yes or no statement. You can narrow down the pop culture categories by asking kids to pick famous actors, musicians, or historical names.
Famous People ABCs
This is another spin on running through the alphabet, but the category here is famous people. Start with the letter A and name someone famous whose name begins with that letter. Move onto the next person and the letter B. Can your clan make it through the alphabet?
Crafty and Creative Road Trip Games No One Will Tire Of
You don't have to lug boxes of arts and crafts materials to get creative on car trips. With a few key items, you can spend the driving hours creating masterpieces with pictures and words.
Road Trip Hangman
Hangman can be played on paper or with a dry erase board. Make your version travel or vacation-related by only using words that pertain to a family trip.
Bring along a small whiteboard, eraser, and a few dry erase markers on your road trip. With these simple items, you can play Pictionary with the family members in your car. Since you are heading on vacation, have all of the things to be drawn relate to vacations or travel.
Everyone in the car needs a writing utensil and a piece of paper. The same word is given to every family member playing. From the given word, players must then come up with other words that can be made from the original word. The person who can create the most words wins.
Everyone but the driver gets a fresh drawing notebook and a small travel kit of colored pencils. Each person then draws the kin to their left in an allotted amount of time. When time is up, pass the notebook so that you draw a new family member. When all travelers have had a chance to create a portrait of everyone in the car, return the books and see yourself as the rest of the family sees you.
If everyone has a cellphone, iPad, or camera, spend some quiet time capturing all you see on the open road. At your next pit stop, share the images with each other. Some are guaranteed to be funny, and others will be stunningly beautiful. It's amazing to see travel perspectives through another person's lens, literally.
Vacation Road Trip Story
A road trip gives families a perfect time to create a story together. One person (an older child or adult, can open up their laptop and type the story out). Everyone in the car takes a turn adding a bit more to the story. Because everyone in your family has their own imagination and creative inspiration, the story you end up with will be funny and unexpected. When you return home from vacation, print the story out and add it to a book where you can collect these treasures that stemmed from a couple of hours or days on the road.
Bonding Through Road Trip Games
Sure, you will do plenty of family bonding once you arrive at your vacation destination, but often families forget that getting there is half the fun. Make sure to build some family-centered road trip games into the drive to help create connection and fun as you make vacation memories.